Toolbox Talks Everything you need to know about managing toolbox talks
The name 'Toolbox talk' is a term taken from the building profession referring to a safety talk, however this in no way should be exclusionary as every company whether outdoors or in an office has its own safety concerns. Whether you call them Toolbox safety meetings, crew talks, tailgate meetings, employee share time, strawberry chats or something else they are important for the employees and the company as a whole. Generally, they are informal talks where company employees get a chance to discuss ideas and policies putting forward their own views on a particular safety topic.
- Correct machine maintenance
- Fire safety
- Evacuation procedure
- Trip and fall hazards
- Mental health related issues including stress, bullying, depression
- Workload maintenance
What are the benefits of a toolbox talk?
Tool box talks provide several benefits such as encouraging the reinforcement of the company's safety culture by making it easy to involve everyone in discussions around safety. They are able to target areas and topics that both employees and employers find important and relevant. The topics can be chosen based on issues that may have arisen recently and be as simple as common safety concerns or maybe topics that arise with the changing of the seasons such as colds and snakes. In the discussion of these issues via a toolbox talk, open communication is able to be facilitated with people being able to voice their ideas and opinions on the best way in which to deal with them or to prevent the issues from happening again or in the first place. They encourage people to remember and understand that they can do something positive about the safety of their workplace.
What format is best?
The great thing about toolbox talks is that they are informal and so the format can be changed and adjusted to suit the audience as well as the topics being presented. It is a great chance to be creative and really motivate engagement. It is important to consider the size of the group and find ways to adjust it depending on the number of people, as having too many or too little can be detrimental to the discussion.
Some formats to try are:
- A simple question and answer session with someone starting with a topic and letting the talk go from there.
- Telling a tale of an incident real or made up which highlights the importance of compliance with the safety regulations/topic.
- Giving out suitable handouts with relevant information on them.
- Having a demonstration of correct and incorrect safety procedures.
The other important factor to take into account is where the talks will take place. With the flexibility of the talks they are able to be done in a variety of places and can move around according to the needs of the employees and the topic of discussion. For instance, they can be done in the staffroom or other suitable areas around the workplace. With modern technology of course the talks are not just limited to a physical space. It is not hard to set up an online forum or e-mail group where people can put forth their ideas. This allows for people who may not be available to attend on the day or time of the talk. Toolbox talks should be flexible and easy for everyone to access. The harder and less interactive it is, the more common it will be for people to not participate or pay attention. Which will likely lead to people not caring and an overall decline in the safety culture of the workplace.
Other important toolbox talks information to consider
- Keep it short, roughly about 5-10mins, this helps with attention spans, productivity and engagement.
- Consolidate the information at the end of each session to ensure everyone agrees with what was talked about.
- Make sure these talks are done on a frequent and regular basis.
- Include a method for follow ups to make sure that workers have a chance to provide feedback or to ask questions that may have arisen since the session.
- Handouts can be done electronically.
- The format should be adjusted to the audience and the topic of the talk.
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